From our good friends at DDOT, a message:
Starting on or about Monday (11/25) we’re going to begin installing a protected bike lane (also known as a cycle track) on M Street NW. 
The cycle track, with a buffer of parked cars and flexible posts, will span over a mile on the north side of M Street NW between 14th and 28th Streets and will serve as the westbound compliment to the eastbound cycle track on L Street NW. On the 1500 block of M Street NW, the lane will be installed as a "traditional" bike lane. Green paint will also be used for much of the block to increase the visibility of the lane. 
13 more blocks of cycletrack and one block of much green paint and the District of Columbia trundles on in its efforts to install bicycle infrastructure. I don't have the tally for 2013 in terms of mileage, but I can think of a some notable improvements (11th street NW, New Mexico Avenue NW, a repaved 15th street, a be-zebra-ed block of Penn, and _______?) and now M Street and it won't be too much more time until First Street NE also sprouts a cycletrack as part of its massive overhaul in the direction of becoming NoMa's Main Street (NoMaMaiStr for short. I believe Nomamaistr is also the name of a minor character in Game of Thrones. Like a wizard, maybe?). And in other news on the bicycle infrastructure front, WeMoveDC ("who moved c? we did!"- Moses) proposes 70 (70! [no seriously, 70!{no, I'm not kidding. Seven-Zero, 70!}]) miles of new cycletrack as part of DC's new master transportation plan. As the saying doesn't go, 14 blocks of cycletrack in the hand is worth 70 miles in the bush, but this is an ambitious plan worth supporting and we should support it and so we support it.

These are all good things and I'm grateful for them. But my gratitude for things pales in comparison to my gratitude for the people of #bikeDC, those of you I know by name and those of you I know by face and those of you whom I don't know at all, but who ride your bikes around to work or to pleasure or to the grocery store to compete with me for the last thing of corn chips, earning my enmity as you grab them right as I turn the aisle even though it didn't even look like you were going to take them until you saw that I wanted them because maybe you're spiteful like that and while it's not personal and while in other circumstances, circumstances in which I wasn't the victim of this spitefulness, I'd probably even think it amusing, I'd nevertheless be disappointed as I very much care for corn chips [I have a full-color image of a bag of Fritos tattooed on my back]. My point, meandered past and now circling round back in front, is that it's the people who make this place special and it's the people who make riding better and I mean that multifariously. Every other cyclist makes every other cyclist safer and every other cyclist makes every other cycling advocate's voice louder, like a megaphone name of smaller megaphones. A megamegaphone if you will. So, thanks. Also, having other people out there on bikes makes it less boring because aside from riding my own bike and writing about bikes and reading about people on bike bikes and talking to people about bikes and thinking about people and bikes, seeing people on bikes is also good. And validating, I guess.

To those of you riding this week, stay safe. It should be quite a bout of wintry weather and you know, drivers. And ice and stuff. So, if you do ride, be sure to attach a hair dryer to the front of your bike and melt the ice before you ride over it and this is a much more practical solution than just going a little slower and with caution. Happy Turkey Day, which until 1920 was called Ottoman Day, and also happy Greece day and happy Armenia day and happy black friday and blue monday and Wednesday Addams. [snap snap]. 


Ride Home 11/12: Two posts in one day, what?

"Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels"- Kate Moss

"That same kind of idea but where 'warm' stands in for the taste part and 'bike riding' is the skinny part"- the 37th most eloquent local bike blogger

This was the first really cold ride of the season. Most of wintry coldness can be combatted with layers of warm, woolly clothes and another substantial part can be bested by microwaving your gloves before leave, but 90% of not being cold is 110% mental. If you have a predisposition for thinking cold, riding your bicycle through the winter- even a DC winter, which is more like a "winter," it will prove very difficult. And not very fun. I don't have advice for not thinking cold thoughts (it's the same advice I don't have for not thinking of an elephant), but maybe thinking about how terrible the Metro is or how awful traffic might be or how many fucking hops on your lame-ass pogo stick it would take could all go a long way to making your way through the cold with as little horribleness as possible. But know this- if you don't want to ride your bike- like you really do not want to ride it- you really shouldn't. Bike commuting should be enjoyable (even when done in suboptimal conditions) and if it's not that, if it's no longer the best of all possible bad options, then there's no use sullying it. Save it for another day. There are no medals for bike commuting. No one will throw you a parade for biking when you don't want to. Trust me. I was like "guys, where the hell is my ticker tape?" once and my coworkers just stared and stared and I think one of them even googled "bike commuter brain rot egomania help line." So that's my advice for winter: wear warm clothes, microwave your gloves (note: don't microwave your gloves), think warm thoughts, and don't ride your bike if you don't want to ride your bike.

There is something equal parts exhilarating and crummy about that first cold air blast that hits your face. It's like a wintry cream pie in the Three Stooges movie that is your evening bike commute.

I rode Massachusetts Avenue from Nebraska Avenue and there was much car traffic from the traffic light at the Observatory until the entrance to the park and this was because there were some flashing light police cars that were parked in the right lane, so sorry cars. I bailed to the sidewalk, but that was only after a singlespeed superbike-type decided that he would pass me and ride betwixt (betwixt!) the two lanes of stopped cars. I don't enjoy doing that, so I rode the sidewalk until the bottom of the hill and got there faster than he did anyway and then we rode along until 23rd street and then at that point, he went in front and I never saw him again. I rode down 21st through the construction at New Hampshire (ugh) to L Street, which was nice. And populous! I was cyclist number 4 at least in a line of cyclists who rode home on the evening commute, coldness be damned.

Sometimes I ride to 11th, but more frequently, I ride to 15th and that's what I did tonight. Somewhat infuriatingly, the 15th street cycletrack remains incomplete (no posts) between L and K. Why is this? Why? WHY? WHHHHHHYYYYYYYYYYY? Like, seriously though, why? There are lots of things one could say about the way that DDOT handled this whole repaving exercise but many of those things would be expletives and not in keeping with the "family-friendly" nature of this blog. Just in case anyone who is ever in charge of a bike lane repaving project is reading this blog, some unsolicited advice:

1. Never let a once protected cycletrack go unprotected. USE CONES! People are going to keep riding it because that's where people have habituated themselves to riding. So, CONES! Create some kind of barrier because that's what people are used to! Because if you don't do that, drivers will park there! Guaranteed.

2. Finish it. Ideally, finish it quickly and completely. If you're not done, put up some cones.

Is it paternalistic to continue to ride behind someone rather than pass that person because that person's bike lacked lights? Or is it like a kind of luminous sherpa-ing? But, seriously, why no lights? Do people not think it would get dark tonight? "Hey, yeah, does anyone know if Tuesday has night? Or is it one of those days that's just day? I can't recall." Nitwits. I don't wish ill to anyone for not having lights on their bikes, but I do wish that THEY WOULD JUST GET SOME LIGHTS. Do it, if not for me (because really), for Thomas Edison, American hero. Why do you hate Thomas Edison, lightless bicyclists? Why? WHY? WHHHHHHHHHHHYYYYYYYYYYYYY?

Sure can't see those zebras on Penn at night.

Had a nice ride up Capitol Hill and then down East Capitol. I felt spry, which was nice. Spryness > creakiness.

OBEY ...?

First there was this (short answer: no) and there was this rejoinder from the Bike Snob and subsequently there's been a whole internet conversation about cyclists and laws and what anyone anywhere should or shouldn't have to do in order to be considered a worthwhile user of the road or some other such thing. I find the whole debate, such as it is, to be less than illuminating and only have a few thoughts to share, none of which themselves are especially profound:

1. I don't really care if you follow traffic laws. I don't lose sleep over it. I don't wring hands. Just please do not kill, maim, injure or aggrieve me or anyone else and I'll pretty much be ok. I'll admit that maybe I should care more and if you tried hard, you might be able to persuade me, but as of right now, I just can't really get worked up about it.

2. I tend to think that we overemphasize "following laws" as as kind of panacea for safety. There are many cases in which everyone is following the letter and spirit of the law in which bad things still happen. This is why I'm much more in the engineering camp than the education or enforcement camp. These latter two things do work and can be useful, but they're not nearly as important as good, separated cycling facilities. Like, think about it this way: we don't just tell pedestrians to follow traffic laws, we have sidewalks and we don't just teach people in drivers ed not to run over pedestrians or occasionally do safety campaigns where we ask the police to ticket drivers who come too close to pedestrians. Sidewalks are great and they're great precisely because of what they do!

And one last thing, a thought experiment of sorts. Imagine two scenarios:

- All cyclists and pedestrians everywhere follow all traffic laws; drivers behave exactly as they do now.

- All drivers everywhere follow all traffic laws; cyclists and pedestrians behave exactly as they do now.

There's no doubt in my mind that the first scenario would definitely see a reduction in cyclist and pedestrian injuries and deaths. Crashes that resulted from cyclist and pedestrian law-breaking would be reduced and fewer cyclists and pedestrians would die. Hooray!

But there's equally no doubt in my mind that the results of scenario 2 would be vastly better than the first scenario. Not only would fewer cyclists and pedestrians die, but so would fewer drivers. How many drivers currently die from crashes related to speeding? Drunk driving? Safe following distance? Lights at night? Turn signals? Et cetera? Not an insubstantial amount! In fact, a lot. How many drivers die from a cyclist running a red light crashing into their car? Exactly. How many pedestrians die from cars "jumping the curb"? How many drivers die when (if?) a guy headbutts your car? So, it would seem to me, that in the aggregate (especially considering that the overwhelming majority of transportation trips are in cars) that given the choice in spending limited resources on getting cyclists to follow traffic laws or getting drivers to follow the law, it sort of seems like a no brainer. Not only does it help people who walk or bike, but it would help people who drive and given that many, many people drive and they are nice people and a life is a life, that would seem, in a kind of utilitarian sense, a better idea. Cyclists and pedestrians and motorists are different and messages that everyone has the same rights and responsibilities tends to elide over these differences. We can continue to be willfully ignorant about the differences and do the whole "pox on both your houses" thing, but that doesn't seem to be working and it especially doesn't seem to be working when bicycle and pedestrian advocates do it (e.g. the Bike Snob post).

Now, obviously, having everyone, regardless of how they get around, follow traffic laws would seem be to an even better outcome than either of the two scenarios. But that brings me back to the fact that, based on my observations, maybe there are more important and effective things we can do to promote safety and solely emphasize following the law and assuming that this will cure all of our ills.



I wrote a thing about the L Street Cycletrack on Greater Greater Washington and then friend of the blog Kate Ryan has a thing about that thing (but mostly Evan Wilder's things) for WTOP. And that thing has comments, which are are so very trenchant! (side note: does trenchant mean dumb?)

Narrowing the L Street Cycletrack would really just be a stopgap, as would adding more flexposts. I think the long-term solution for that stretch needs to involve the abolition of the mixing zones, the installation of a curb, and a separate traffic signal sequence for drivers and cyclists. If narrowing would help in getting those things, so be it. If narrowing would help in the mean time before those things are installed, so be it. In any case, my thinking is that narrowing the lane would be a super easy step that could be taken right now at basically zero cost that would stop a large majority of the problems of illegal driving and illegal parking. It wouldn't be a panacea, but perfect shouldn't be the enemy of good. And perfect is, unfortunately, considerably distant. The L Street Cycletrack has been down for a year now and I think that's enough time to have studied what works and what doesn't work and I would applaud DDOT for taking any steps to make it better for those of us who ride in it day in and day out. Whether those steps will actually be taken, I don't know. I try not to be too pessimistic about these things, but the Potato doesn't have the best track record of late in speedily addressing easily addressable deficiencies.

Now, about the M Street Cycletrack... um, I got nothing. Maybe it'll be in before the New Year, maybe it won't go in until spring, maybe it'll be stuck in environmental review limbo forever (Forever Limbo is like Forever Tango, but with a stick. It's underwhelming) maybe you should ask mayoral candidates what they plan to do about it, maybe someone should finally call Carly Rae Jepsen, I don't know. Its delay is asinine.


Lights Are Dumb And You Should Never Use Them

This past weekend as part of our continual "war on not changing clocks twice a year," the government mandated that we do something [I wasn't paying close attention] and now it's dark at night when many of us ride our bicycles home. Not just a little dark, but very dark and it is only going to get darker earlier from this point until the equinox solstice, though probably not much darker, as it's already quite dark. Now many people, these people being both responsible and law-abiding, would tell you that you not only have a personal responsibility but also a community obligation to use lights on your bike at night. That they make you visible to your fellow road users (in addition to illuminating your own path) and that to fail to use them is both outrageous and morally wrong, to say nothing of highly dumb and anti-social. That the consequences for not using lights at night could be dire and that there is no valid excuse for refraining from their use. That some people, for example this guy, would even be willing to procure you lights for your bike if you didn't have any or couldn't afford them. That lights are singularly the most important piece of safety equipment (aside from brakes) that you could use for night riding. However, these people are all wrong and lights are the worst and you should never use them for the following reasons:

Cars have lights. You don't want to be like a car do you? After all, that's why you ride a bike. If you wanted to have lights, you'd drive. Obviously. Ipso facto. (is that what that means?)

Lights reveal your location to bounty hunters. Riding in total darkness helps obfuscate your presence from bounty hunters and avoiding bounty hunters has to be one of your top transportation priorities.

9 out of 10 ophthalmologists endorse lights. And ophthalmologists tend to be jerks, right?

Lights add unnecessary weight and drag to your bicycle. It normally takes me about 45 minutes to ride home, but once I rode home and I had lights on my bike and it took my 46 minutes. That's 60 extra seconds due to the weight and drag caused by lights. 60 seconds I'll never get back. Thanks a lot, lights!

If the Creator/Evolution by Natural Selection wanted us to visible in darkness, he would've made bicyclists bioluminescent. Like the clusterwink snail. Do you really want to offend Zeus/Darwin by imitating the clusterwink snail? Icarus did shit like that and you saw what happened to him. Or read about it. And played a Nintendo game vaguely associated with it. In any case, it was bad news.

People might think that you're a lighthouse or a Christmas tree. Next thing you know, ship pilots will be all confused and/or Santa will show up too early and you'd both ruin Christmas and the global seafaring economy.

Everyone else is wearing night vision goggles so lights are superfluous. Most drivers these days (but not bounty hunters for some reason) already wear night vision goggles, so they can see you perfectly fine. This is especially true of drivers who wear night vision goggles while looking down at their phones while driving.

Most bike lights are malodorous. The same chemicals that provide the power that lights your lights smell really bad. You don't want to have to put a clothespin on your nose, do you?

Bicyclists who have lights on their bikes might break traffic laws. Sure, so might cyclists who don't. But, per the rules of the internet, vague insinuations and anecdotes are good enough to support any assertion, no matter how outlandish.

Lights kind of sound like they could be associated with the Illuminati. You don't need me to tell you why that's bad. Same reason I don't use mason jars- I simply cannot abide being associated with secret societies.

These are just some of the very, very many valid reasons why you should never use lights on your bike at night. While it would be possible to list out many more of the very, very many valid reasons why you should avoid doing this abundantly obvious, safe, legal and self-interestedly helpful thing, I'd prefer not to because those reasons are so extraordinarily obvious and also because the symbol of an idea, as learned from watching many a cartoon, is a lightbulb over one's head and lights, clearly, are the worst.

Stay safe.


A Very Special Announcement About Art Bike Racks Coming to L Street NW

Sometimes I get press releases because, um, I'm not totally sure, but I consider it my sacred obligation to pass along this information and sometimes with aplomb. So, please see this information below and please note that my reposting of this press release is dedicated to all of you (and one of you in particular) who love (and by love, I mean loathe more than anything else in the world) art bike racks.

Washington D.C.’s Central Business District Promotes Green Transit
(Washington, DC) – The Golden Triangle Business Improvement District (BID) will install the latest in a series of artist commissioned bike racks this week. The bike rack is the sixth completed as a part of the BID’s Public Art campaign.  Washington, D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), who serves as the Chair of the Committee on Transportation and the Environment, will speak at the unveiling of the bike rack.  Councilmember Cheh will also park the inaugural bike on the newly sculpted bike rack. The ceremony is open to the public and will take place outside of 2055 L Street NW on Wednesday, November 6th at 10:30 AM.
The newest artistic bike rack will be installed along the L Street cycle track, which is the only west-to-east-protected bike lane in the downtown D.C. area.  Since 2000, the Golden Triangle BID has densely packed the 43-block neighborhood with more than 400 bike racks, providing parking for more than 800 bicycles in the area.
The “natural beauty of this bustling neighborhood, and the landscaping that makes this area so warm and inviting,” inspired the design, stated the artist Kaylyn Bancroft.  The bike rack looks like a willow tree and is a series of overlapping arches topped with sculpted birds and leaves.  Constructed of steel tubing and painted planar elements the rack measures twelve feet long by four feet tall. Bancroft also designed the bike rack “Clip Art” which was installed in the BID in 2010.  
After the newest bike rack design was revealed, name ideas for the installment were submitted through the BID’s Facebook page.  The Golden Triangle BID staff selected the top three names from the entries, and, opened it up to the public for online voting between October 23rd and October 29th.  The winning moniker will be announced at the bike rack unveiling.  The top three selections were: “Bike Nest,” “Bi(rd) Cycle,” and “Pedal Perch.” Over 153 people voted for the winning name.
“We look forward to celebrating green transit and the successful completion of another unique bike rack in the neighborhood,” said Leona Agouridis, executive director of the Golden Triangle BID. 
The unveiling event will be officiated by the President of the Board of the Golden Triangle BID, Greg Meyer with Brookfield Properties.  Speakers will include Washington D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh and Doug Olson, Executive Vice President of Monument Realty who redeveloped the property adjacent to the new bike rack, 2055 L Street NW.  Dawn Cacciotti, Senior Vice President of Human Resources at the National Restaurant Association will also speak.  The National Restaurant Association, an owner occupant at 2055 L Street, has a wellness program in place that encourages employees to bike to work.

About Golden Triangle BID
The Golden Triangle Business Improvement District is a non-profit organization that works to enhance DC’s Central Business District from the White House to Dupont Circle and 16th Street NW to New Hampshire Avenue NW. The BID’s primary focus is to provide a clean, safe and friendly environment within its 43 blocks of public space for area workers and visitors. The BID has a 23-member Board of Directors representing owners and tenants in the central business district.